>From: Tom Thalmann <email@example.com>
>Date: Fri, 22 Mar 1996 00:09:24 -0800
>Subject: Good Crust
>A new bakery has just opened nearby. I am jealous of the great crust their
>bread has; they have a hard cursted french bread that is excellent. How do
>I get a crust like that? I've been baking bread on and off for twenty years
>(no bread machine). The key, I'm sure is in the oven.
>What type of oven is best? A good commercial oven would be great but within
>most folks budget.
Of course it's wonderful to be able to have a terrific oven; however, I
made great French bread and nice, crusty bread in horrible old apartment
ovens for several years without difficulty.
I'm not very scientific about it, but what I use works... :) When I turn
on the oven to preheat, I make sure that there's a rack underneath where the
loaf will set, and on that bottom rack is a METAL pan (do not use glass like
I once did...idiot me). My pan is about 9"x13", and it is deep...about 2"
deep. Stick that on the bottom rack and let the oven preheat as normal.
Then, when you're ready to do the actual baking, pour about 2-3 cups of
water into that hot pan, which will result in an enormous cloud of steam
suddenly rushing up and...STAY OUT OF THE WAY!...possibly fogging your
glasses if you wear them... :) Quickly...pop the loaf of bread onto the
rack right above that pan and close the door! It is the steam in the oven
which creates that nice, crusty effect. About halfway through the baking,
add another 1-2 cups of water if the other water has evaporated; otherwise
don't do anything. When you take the loaf out of the oven you should have a
wonderful crust on it.
You also get a magnificent crust, by the way, if you use a stoneware baker
called a cloche. There are also clay bakers, but the one I'm referring to
is made of stoneware, and does not have to be soaked or anything prior to
baking. Essentially, it consists of the pan portion and a bell-like
cover/lid. When you are preheating the oven you can preheat the lid, but
it's not necessary. The effect here is that the lid holds in the steam
which is being created from the moisture in the loaf. That steam is held on
and around the loaf being baked and creates a lovely, hearty crust.
I've also tried baking bread in clay bakers, but in my opinion the quality
of the bread produced wasn't nearly the same. With a clay baker (I use a
brand called Schlemertopf, but I've also seen others such as Romertopf,
etc.), you must pre-soak the baker in water for 15-20 minutes minimum.
Although water soaks into the baker and this creates steam inside the area
where the bread is, somehow it never seems quite the same to me....
I hope all this yammering on my part made some sense....these techniques
have worked for me and I think that you'll be pleased with the results if
you start by trying the pan of water method first...no fancy equipment required!
Hope this helps,